Life and Career of Sylvia Plath

Life and Career of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is the older daughter of Otto, who was a professor at Boston University. Her mother’s name is Aurelia Schoeber, who was a high school teacher. Out of the wedlock of Otto and Schoeber, Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 at Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Her father mainly concentrated primarily on a particular subject called entomology aka bees specialist. Thus, Sylvia plath belonged to an educated family. She had gotten admission through scholarship at Smith College. She had also acquired Fulbright fellowship and studied at Newnham College, Cambridge. She was interested in writing from her childhood and the same continued throughout her education. Even in her school days at Wellesley, Massachusetts, she took interest in art. Her poems covered many subjects due to which College Board of Mademoiselle magazine had selected her poems in year 1953. Depression was always there in his poetry; most of her poems were on the theme of isolation because mentally, she had suffered a lot after her father’s death in year 1940. She was also given bi-polar electroconvulsive shock treatments. Too much sensitiveness compelled her to take such steps, which might end her life; she took excessive amount of sleeping pills, in year 1953, so as to commit suicide but her attempt remained failed. In year 1955, she migrated to England after the birth of Frieda (born on 1 April 1960, her name had also been mentioned in Sylvia’s poems).

In England, she took interest mostly in sexual activities but simultaneously, her efforts with regard to studying literature are worth mentioning. Her poems are evident that she did not like dual-faced society. She was against the rule that men can enjoy their sexual life without limits but women should have not done so. She wanted equal freedom for both sexes. In England, she also got a chance to meet Ted Hughes and after spending time with each other, both got married on 16 June 1956. After passing her examination in June, Sylvia along with her husband shifted to America, where Sylvia started teaching at Smith.

Professional career of Sylvia Plath was started in year 1958/59 but she became successful when she started learning poetry from George Starbuck and Anne Sexton. In fact, she is very much influenced by Anne Sexton. In those days, she had decided to chose poetry-writing as career but it was not enough to meet the daily wages/expenses. Thus, she also did a part- time job as a secretary in the psychiatric division of Massachusetts General Hospital. In last days of year 1959, the couple moved to London, where Sylvia had written ‘The Colossus’ at Yaddo after discovering Theodore Roethke’s poetry. when their daughter Frieda was born on 1st day of April 1960, both the couples, in next year i.e. 1961, sailed to Devon but preceding year, Sylvia Plath had completed her novel titled “The Bell Jar”, in which influence of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger’s is witnessed. Her other book “The Colossus and Other Poems” was published by William Heinemann in October 1960, whereas Alfred Knopf published the collection in the States.

In January 1962, another child named Nicholas was born but Ted Hughes had left her perhaps due to the reason that he did not prefer household activities for men and wanted to leave them for women but Sylvia wanted equal rights. Nevertheless, after departure of Ted from the life of Sylvia, she had written a lot of poems, which later appeared in Ariel including october poems. Some of her prominent poems are: “Lady Lazarus”,  “Daddy”, “Fever 103” “Purdah”, “Poppies in July”, and “Ariel”.

In early days of year 1963 (11th day of February 1963) in London, Sylvia Plath again attempted suicide by adopting the same method of overdosing sleeping pills with addition of gas inhalation but this time unfortunately she could not survive and died at Primrose Hill, London, United Kingdom.

Sylvia Plath is among the most talented women writers of United States. Her anger and depression give an extra touch to her poetry. Her excessive emotions and sensitiveness are also remarkable in this regard. Most of her poems deal with the themes of double standards, insecurity, isolation, mistrust, anxiety, anger, fear, uncertainty, depression, and death. Critics had found an additional element of ambiguity in her poems. Anne Sexton’s remarked on the work of Sylvia Plath:

“Sylvia and I would talk at length about our first suicide, in detail and in depth—between the free potato chips. Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem. Sylvia and I often talked opposites. We talked death with burned-up intensity, both of us drawn to it like moths to an electric lightbulb, sucking on it. She told the story of her first suicide in sweet and loving detail, and her description in The Bell Jar is just that same story.”

Theodore Dalrymple also remarked that Plath had been the “patron saint of self-dramatization” and of self-pity.

The detail of Sylvia’s work, year-wise is as under:-

Poetry collections

  • The Colossus and Other Poems (1960) William Heinemann
  • Ariel (1965) Faber and Faber
  • Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1968) Turret Books
  • Crossing the Water (1971) Faber and Faber
  • Winter Trees (1971) Faber and Faber
  • The Collected Poems (1981) Faber and Faber
  • Selected Poems (1985) Faber and Faber
  • Ariel: The Restored Edition (2004) Faber and Faber
  • Collected prose and novels
  • The Bell Jar: A novel (1963), under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas”
  • Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975)
  • Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts (1977)
  • The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982)
  • The Magic Mirror (published 1989), Plath’s Smith College senior thesis
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Karen V. Kukil (2000)
  • The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (Faber & Faber, 2017)
  • The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (Faber & Faber, 2018)
  • Children’s books
  • The Bed Book (1976), illustrated by Quentin Blake, Faber and Faber
  • The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit (1996) Faber and Faber
  • Mrs. Cherry’s Kitchen (2001) Faber and Faber
  • Collected Children’s Stories (UK, 2001) Faber and Faber

Note: My personal opinions are not included in this article. Information has been taken from Wikipedia and some other relevant sources.